Drug Dreams in Addiction Recovery – What Are They and Why Do We Have Them?

What It's Like To Be AddictedDrug dreams are very common in men and women in long term addiction treatment and recovery, especially during the first 90 days of clean-time.  Recovering addicts often shutter thinking about them and urges and cravings to use drugs typically increases or comes to the surface upon awakening from them.  So are they blissful dreams in remembrance of the “glory days” of using drugs or are they nightmares?  What are drug dreams and why do we have them?

Dreams can be both positive or negative and can have an affect on us.  Those that facilitate and bring out our worst fears are often referred to nightmares.  Many have referred to their drug dreams in this way.

What Are Drug Dreams?

Drug dreams are typically vivid nightmares where the brain creates and conjures people, places and things that involve ongoing drug use.  The actual drug dream itself may seem inviting and while having it, one may experience feelings of enjoyment and euphoria.  Upon awakening however, it often produces stress, sadness and anxiety.  If one dwells on it and let’s a recent drug dream materialize in the brain, it can produce powerful urges to use and sometimes a full blown drug relapse.

Dream Facts

To truly comprehend drug dreams and why we have them, it’s crucial to have an understanding of dreams in general.  Below are some basic facts about dreams.

1. They tend to occur most often during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.  Because periods of REM sleep become progressively longer as the night progresses, an individual may experience nightmares most often in the early morning hours.

2. Some people have nightmares after having a late-night snack, which can increase metabolism and signal the brain to become more active.,

3. Medications that act on chemicals in the brain can cause unpleasant dreams.  Anti-depressants are an example of this.

4. Recovering addicts often experience insomnia at some point.  Irregular sleeping patterns may contribute to adult nightmares, which themselves often cause people to lose additional sleep.  This isn’t good for men and women in addiction treatment and long-term recovery.

5. Psychological triggers such as depression, anxiety, PTSD etc. can be a source of having drug dreams or dreams in general.

Why Do We have Drug Dreams?

What It's Like To Be AddictedSo why on earth do individuals in addiction treatment and recovery dream about drugs?  Those serious about addiction help, treatment and recovery are trying to move forward in their lives.  Having these dreams may bring back memories of using and feelings of euphoria.  Studies have shown that drug dreams can cause addicts to experience extremely intense cravings, which some may feel they cannot resist.

According to Freud’s theory of dreams, when an individual is dreaming about drugs, he/she is seeking fulfillment of something unacceptable (for example using heroin).  He explains it as a “repressed unconscious wish.” It could also be that the dreams are simply memory cues which may prompt an increased desire to use again, also known as a “trigger.” After all, addiction is a disease and the affected part of the brain may be sending signals to the parts of the brain that generate and produce dreams.

Megan Sarah’s Experience with Drug Dreams

Below, Megan Sarah, one of our writers and bloggers for Kill The Heroin Epidemic Nationwide, Heroin News and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers shares her experience with drug dreams.

In early recovery I wanted to be clean, but I also thought about using a lot. There were times where I was in so much physical and emotional pain, all I could think of was how much better I would feel if I could just shoot some dope. During this period, I would have frequent dreams about drugs that consisted of the whole process, setting up the deal, driving to the “spot” and it ended with me using.

My life started to get better, I started working and becoming more social. I was still having vivid dreams but something would stop me from using in the dream. For example, in one of my dreams I got money out of the ATM and started walking to meet my dealer. Out of nowhere my boyfriend popped up and was able to talk me out of buying heroin.

According to my psychiatrist, this is normal. A person may have dreams that involve drugs, but if the addict is moving forward in recovery the dream will often stop right as the addict is about to purchase or use heroin. Or if the addict does end up using in the dream, there will sometimes be a negative consequence, for example getting arrested.

Written by William Charles and Megan Sarah, Founder/Publisher and Blogger/Writer for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)

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